Monday, September 01, 2008

18 Months Later - How Are They Doing?

It has been awhile since I lasted posted a review -- been a busy summer and start to the new academic year. Even when I am not actively blogging, I still file away emails that I receive that are Travel 2.0 related to, hopefully, review when I have more time. Most of these are from PR people wanting to promote their website and products.

So what I decided to do today was to look back at the oldest ones that I had files away and see which of them is still of interest today. These three were all promoted to me in April 2007, about 18 months ago.

71 Miles - is an early staycation website, founded before the concept of staycation became popularized. Its beta version was focused on Northern California, and its plans in April 2007 were to go national in "the coming months." That obviously did not happen, as it is still Northern California based, and they do not seem to talk about going national any longer. And they seem to be looking for advertisers on their homepage.

The State of Oregon's website, which is somewhat of a traditional state travel site, except that you need to join the site to see most of the information. If you register you get access to:
  • Tips for more than 300 destinations in Oregon and over 90,000 others worldwide
  • Connect with thousands of fellow travelers from all continents
  • Rate and review hotels, restaurants, attractions, and more
  • Search the database for members with similar interests, find top rated places, the most respected users or the most valuable tips
  • Customize your own passport page and track all your travel
Destinations (sort of global - only a handful of sites listed), Tips and Member profiles are available without registering -- they apparently have about 3,000 registered members -- not hugely successful for a state tourism site, I would guess. I think most of these options are available elsewhere, and since I am not planning a trip to Oregon in the foreseeable future, I did not register. But for anyone who goes to Oregon a lot, say if you had a second home there, this might be worthwhile. The site was created by, which is based in Portland, Oregon, and does not seem to have any other similar products. [UPDATE 2Sept08: There is also a site, which was mentioned in a comment, below.]

In my opinion, 3000 registered members is not necessarily a huge success. With a little effort they could possibly get close to that number on Facebook. I think the issue of registering is a barrier. Only those people who are most enthusiastic to share and discuss Oregon will likely register. For potential visitors, the Tips section is probably the most useful part of the site and it is good that they make this available without needing to register. So there are probably many times as many users of the site than just those who register., the state's official travel site, has a Travel Journal tool where registered users can take notes of places they want to see, but they do not have the community tools that GoSeeOregon has. In addition, they only refer people via a very small link at the bottom of their site, to the GoSeeOregon website, so they are not really making full use of, with which they are apparently still affiliated. launched in April 2007 and was described in the email I received back then as being "devoted to baby boomers traveling in the United States with families. The idea was to take project management out of trip planning and help people collaborate and enjoy travel preparation as much as possible." Its primary feature, in my opinion, is the ability to post your trip itinerary and, optionally, share it with others. You can also comment on the places you went and share photos -- sort of like a personal travel blog. There is no discussion forum, and you cannot comment directly on postings, though you can suggest updates to a post. So it is a lot less open than or

It is hard to tell how many users currently has. My impression is that is is OK, but not huge. There seem to be user trips to most of the more popular corners of the world. The site, however, is full of other information from a variety of different sources -- including commercial tour operators. This form of advertising is relatively less obtrusive than what one finds on sites such as Though it can be sneaky in that way.

In Summary

Of the 18 month old sites reviewed here, appears to be the most successful. That could be because it is the broadest in its geographic market, covering the globe, instead of only one state or urban region. It could also be because it is the most rich in the user generated tools that it provides -- namely, allowing users to create itineraries that can be private or shared. It does not have a discussion forum, which is a shortcoming, I think. However, the information provided -- a mix of user-generated content and commercial content -- is presented in an easy to access and use manner. Perhaps this is better suited to baby-boomers who just want information and are less interested in active site participation.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Some Travel Planning Tools

OK, so this is not all of the sites covered are are new, though a couple of them are. But I think it is worth visiting and commenting on the more established sites, instead of just covering the newest travel sites here. has an article on titled "Travel Websites Get Personal" by Wendy Tanaka, which is accompanied by a slide show of Seven Top Sites for Planning Your Vacation. If you hate those slides shows as much as I do, here is a quick list of the seven sites that they list, along with my own comments on each:
  1. - airline, hotel and vacation booking site, often finds the best deals in comparative studies - This is the one that I use the most on this list, though I normally enter it via the multi-site search engines of or

  2. - massive database of user-generated review, mostly of hotels - I use TripAdvisor occasionally to get information on hotels in places that I am very unfamiliar with. Unfortunately, I find the often conflicting reviews of the same place very confusing!

  3. - user reviews of destinations, hotels, restaurants, etc., more like blog entries, now part of I used IgoUgo recently to plan daily activities in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I was too cheap to buy a guidebook for the short trip that I took there and looked at several sites like IgoUgo for tips on what to do and see, which I then printed out and took with me.

  4. - automatically generates guides for trip itineraries that you enter - I tried this once but found the results too general and diverse and not well suited to my interests. If you are interested in this approach, you might want to try, which is a new site that also creates a trip itinerary around your destination and interests. It currently only covers selected sites outside the US, but I think that will change over time.

    And there is also's Trip Finder (image above), which does the same thing and is a 2008 Webby Award nominee for Travel, along with several other sites listed here. (Note that the the preference scales on Trip Finder are also offered on, which I reviewed in June 2007.)

  5. - and more user reviews, plus a Q&A section, and links to real-life Travel Agents - I have not used this site and looking at it I am not sure that I, personally, would find its features that useful. Others might be different, though.

  6. - airlines and hotels, attempts to forecast future fares for mostly US cities (good luck with that these days of bankrupt airlines and sky-high oil prices!) - They are slowly expanding their forecasting coverages, but it basically does not work for international travel. Even for domestic US, I find the results of limited use as it cannot guarantee a certain future price (though I think there is a way to do that for a price).

  7. - airline fares, but with a Trip Quality Score based on lost luggage, on-time departures, legroom, and flight duration - based on what you indicate as important (US only) - This beta site is the newest on the list and I have not used it, though the concept is interesting. Here is a screenshot of its results - the big number is the quality score, the bars on the left are where you adjust your preferences:

When I plan my trips (which I have been doing a lot of lately), I start from a site that I created called "My Favorite Travel Websites". Here is a screenshot of that site (the photo of me and my daughter in Hawaii is from over 25 years ago):

On this Hubpage I post anything that I think I might use in planning my own personal and professional travels. Do I use everything that is there -- nope, but I might, some day. And even with this fairly comprehensive list, I often seem to find myself using new and different websites every time I plan a new trip. Go figure...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tourist Attractions Galore (US only) at

As a geographer, I have a bias toward mapping applications that relate to Web 2.0 and Travel 2.0. So even though I get a lot of links to Travel 2.0 websites in my inbox, and even though I really should be reading student term papers right now, I did mention this new site (still in beta), in part because of its simplicity and mostly because of it potential usefulness for travelers in the US. is a map of tourist attractions in the US. (Sorry, rest of the world.) Attractions include: "history, arts, recreation, nature, science, parks, sports, theater, concerts, nightlife & activities." It is basically a mash-up of Google Maps and Yahoo! Local, with some added information and functionality. At each zoom level HappyMappy will show up to 100 of the most popular attractions. It is unclear just how popularity is determined.

Checking the attractions around Flagstaff, Arizona, I found the results to be quite comprehensive, and there were a couple of items listed that I was personally not aware of. It was not perfect, however, as it included a couple of motels (not really tourist attractions) and places on the Northern Arizona University campus that I thought were a bit questionable. For example, the Du Bois Center is tagged with: Concert Entertainment Live Entertainment Live Music Music Nightlife Venue. However, it is mostly a food outlet for students and a conference center with meeting rooms and an auditorium that may, on a very infrequent occasion, have some evening event that is open to the public. In addition, as student recreation center is listed that is not open to the public.

In addition, downtown Flagstaff, especially on Route 66 (US Highway 89/180), has a lot of tourist arts/gifts/souvenir shops, but only a couple are listed. And I wonder how well they will be able to keep this information current given the relatively high business turnover in this sector. Finally, urban districts and scenic landscapes are attractions, as well. But these do not show up on the HappyMappy maps. While it might be possible to identify downtown Flagstaff as a tourism hot spot, based on the large number of pin points there, the historic hotels along Route 66 as not so well identifiable.

Also, I was not able to save my points of interest and maps either in Firefox 3 (beta) or on IE 7 after I registered on the site. I would think this kind of problem would be mostly resolved in a beta release, but I guess not this time.

HappyMappy reminds me of - which is a pin map showing links to tourist attractions around the world, but which also emphasizes videos and photos more, and text descriptions of the attractions less than does HappyMappy. VeniVidiWiki also allows users to add additional sites to their database, though there is no social networking related to that. And there is also which links the attractions to an itinerary route -- though that makes it more complicated, as well. I covered before here and before here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Personal Travel Search - Simple Is Best

The website has a very simple, Google-based travel search site that works very nicely!

This is the search interface, on which I typed "Singapore":

And here are the results for my Singapore search. Each link basically takes you to a Google page with links to the topic, which, of course, is also a very clean interface, of course. With all the often complicated Web 2.0 stuff out there, simple is like a breath of fresh air.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

From Tourist to Traveler - Educating visitors about Angkor Wat

A friend of mine, Tim Winter, sent me a link to his new website about travel, tourism and heritage in Cambodia, with an emphasis on Angkor Wat <>. The website is essentially intended to support and expand upon his recent book on the same topic, which can be found on the website. The site also includes links to recent news stories related to tourism and heritage issues in Cambodia.

While a lot of Web 2.0 tends to focus on practical tools for organizing trips and finding the best deals from insiders. At best, they provide users with information on must see attractions.

However, tourists are part of the tourism economy -- which is generally considered the largest part of the global service economy, and has huge impacts on host destinations. Few tourists fully understand their role in this tourism economy, and how they are shaping and changing the destinations that they visit.

Website like this one on Cambodia help to bridge this gap between being a leisure tourist and an aware traveler. Good job, Tim!